American Airlines kicks off D-Day 80th anniversary trip for World War II veterans to Normandy

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American Airlines kicked off its D-Day 80th anniversary trip to Normandy, France, with 70 World War II veterans on Friday at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

The veterans enjoyed a kickoff dinner Thursday night at American Airlines headquarters in Forth Worth, Texas, before their AA flight to Paris, and took part in a parade to the airport on Friday afternoon.

The veterans were sent off with an address from actor and founder of the partnering group, Gary Sinise of the Gary Sinise Foundation, and other volunteers and supporters from across the U.S.

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“We’re honored to play a part in helping this group of heroic veterans return to Normandy,” American Airlines COO David Seymour said in a statement.

“This special journey is not only an expression of our gratitude for these heroes and the sacrifices they made for our freedom, but we hope to help shine a light on their extraordinary stories and preserve their legacies for generations to come,” he added.

Among the 70 veterans selected for the trip was Frank J. Perry Sr., who served in the Army as an aerial gunner in Europe in 1945.

Perry joined Piedmont Airlines post-war to continue his dreams of aviation and served there for nearly 40 years. American Airlines is formed today by many heritage airlines like Piedmont.

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When the veterans land in France, they will spend two days visiting Paris before commemorative events begin in Normandy.

Their program in Normandy will include “visits to key historical sites, concerts and special ceremonies to honor the courage and sacrifice of all who served during World War II,” American Airlines said.

On the anniversary of D-Day itself, June 6, there will be a ceremony held at the Normandy American Cemetery. It is the first American cemetery on European soil for service members of World War II.

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The oldest veteran onboard the chartered flight is 107-year-old former U.S. Merchant Marine Reynolds Tomter.

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June 6 marks 80 years since American forces invaded the beaches of Normandy under operation code-named Neptune to liberate France. 

It remains the largest seaborne invasion in history.

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